Women's lacrosse: Big start lifts Tar Heels past Cavs
On the heels of its most efficient offensive performance of the season, North Carolina is headed back to the NCAA semifinals for the fourth time in five years.
The Tar Heels took nine shots on net in the first half and scored 10 goals — the final tally was put in by a Virginia defender — en route to a 13-9 win over the Cavaliers Saturday at Fetzer Field.
No. 3 UNC (16-3) recorded its 14th straight home win in NCAA Tournament play and ended Virginia’s season for the fourth time in seven years.
The Tar Heels will now face the winner of last night’s game between No. 2 Northwestern and No. 7 Penn State on Friday in Villanova, Pa.
Junior Abbey Friend matched career highs with five goals and six points, while Tewaaraton Award finalist Kara Cannizzaro had three goals and two assists to lead the scoring for UNC.
Before Virginia could get its first possession, UNC scored three times — all in the first minute. Freshman Aly Messinger’s career-high third assist 3:31 into the game made it 4-0.
The early lead was key, since it forced Virginia to play an up-tempo game in order to catch up. That style fits the Tar Heels’ strengths.
“Obviously we’re very explosive, we’re very athletic, we like to score a lot of goals,” UNC coach Jenny Levy said. “So it’s important to get up on our opponents so we don’t have to endure long, boring possessions. So if you take care of that early, then you force the other team to have to play.”
The Cavaliers (11-10) briefly got back into the game with two goals, but the Tar Heels would score six straight to end the half, including the own-goal with 15 seconds left. That one was credited to Morgan Rubin, the last UNC player to touch the ball.
“In the first half we were a lot more composed, and we were taking a second or two to shoot around the goalie and make sure our shots were on net,” Cannizzaro said.
While UNC scored on every shot, freshman goalie Megan Ward made three saves against the Cavs.
The Tar Heels kept the pressure on after halftime — Brittney Coppa scored 14 seconds into the second half — and led 13-4 with 18 minutes left before the Cavs netted the last five goals.
Virginia won 12 of 17 draws when the teams met on March 9 — and 8-7 UNC win — but the Tar Heels controlled 16 of 24 draws on Saturday.
“Usually the team that jumps quickest on the whistle and just works the hardest comes out with the ball,” said Cavs coach Julie Myers, who was a teammate of Levy’s at Virginia. “The ball kept bouncing to Carolina it seemed. We’d be on the scene and sure enough Carolina would come up with it.”
A big factor in that was UNC senior Emily Garrity, who had seven draw controls and three caused turnovers along with her two goals.
“She’s our midfield grinder,” Levy said. “She doesn’t get a lot of recognition but she’s just a tough, balls-out player.”
UNC got 9 of 13 draws and had an 11-7 edge in ground balls during the decisive first half, which led to Virginia’s eighth straight loss against the Tar Heels.
“We knew it was going to take a perfect game to come out with a win and we clearly weren’t perfect,” Myers said. “If we could redo that first minute I think we have a good chance of a win.”